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  • Writer's picturePaul Andrews

Pioneering Work Needed To Close The Class Pay Gap

Latest research from The Social Mobility Foundation has identified that professionals from working-class backgrounds are paid over £6k less per year than more privileged peers in the same occupation. In fact, the research confirms that they are paid an average of £6,291 – or 12 per cent – less per year than those from professional-managerial backgrounds, despite them working in the same occupational groups.

Professional workers from professional-managerial origins receive an average salary of £51,728 compared to an average salary of £45,437 for employees from working-class backgrounds, research into the Class Pay Gap found.

That means that Class Pay Gap Day – when those from working-class backgrounds in professional occupations effectively stop getting paid – happens on 17th November this year. It means professionals from working-class backgrounds are effectively working one in eight days for free.

Workers in the private sector face a larger Class Pay Gap than those in other sectors. Those from working-class backgrounds who are in a professional occupation in the private sector are paid £7,575 less per year than those from professional-managerial origins. Whilst in the ‘other’ sectors there is still a Class Pay Gap of £4,750, it is less pronounced than in the private sector. Latest figures show that the private sector employs 82% of the UK’s workforce.

When it comes to gender, professional women from working-class backgrounds are hit with a double disadvantage. There is a Class Pay Gap of £7,042 between women from working class and professional-managerial origins in the same occupation.

Separate polling of 1,280 young people (aged 16-18) carried out in Summer 2023, found that nearly three in four young people (72%) said the Class Pay Gap put them off applying for a job in elite professions such as law and finance.

Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) said that they would be more enthusiastic about working for an employer who prioritised tackling social mobility/socioeconomic diversity.

Rt. Hon Alan Milburn, Chair, Social Mobility Foundation, said: “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work is the least anyone should expect. But too many of Britain’s workplaces share a shameful secret. It cannot be right that professionals from working-class backgrounds are paid significantly less than their peers in the same occupation."

“Some pioneering employers are measuring their Class Pay Gap – as a precursor to closing it. But it will take action from Government to see the step-change that’s needed. As they did with Gender Pay Gap reporting, it is time to mandate the reporting of socioeconomic background data. What gets measured, gets done. Without government action, millions of people will continue to be undervalued and underpaid.”

Kevin Ellis, Senior Partner at PwC UK, said: “The gap in pay between professionals from a lower socioeconomic background and their more privileged peers, is not only a societal issue but an issue for business and the economy. Businesses need diversity of talent and thought. We’ve seen the benefits of improving the diversity of our workforce – you can't measure this without collecting socioeconomic background data. Gathering data helps you understand what interventions to make because these changes don’t happen naturally. We always strive to do more – so it’s positive to see other employers now starting to collect data and making efforts to close their socioeconomic background pay gaps.”

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO at the Co-operative Group, said: “The evidence is compelling, for children born in the UK today socioeconomic background remains a strong predictor of life chances and opportunities. Employers, including the Co-op, have a responsibility to step up and address the inequalities that persist in our society. We strive to lead by example, taking action to identify where unfairness holds our people back. That's why we will publish our first socioeconomic pay gap report in 2024 and why we’ll be encouraging our partners and suppliers to do the same.”

Shanice Katana, aged 24, Project Assistant (Consultancy) at Mace said: “In the workplace, equity is as important as equality. Closing the Class Pay Gap will benefit any employer as it will foster unity and create a working culture with a sense of togetherness."

In my early career journey, I looked out for employers' attitudes to improving social mobility and their Class Pay Gap as a key measure to the possibility of me working there. Employers that are public and intentional about trying to improve, make me feel valued and hopeful."

"It’s important for me that they value having a range of people from different backgrounds and encourage cultural diversity. When deciding whether to work for an employer, I gauge how willing they are to improve in this area, and sometimes we may need to be the change we don’t see.”


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